Descriptive Paragraph

The Purpose of Description in Writing

Writers use description in writing to make sure that their audience is fully immersed in the words on the page. This requires a concerted effort by the writer to describe his or her world through the use of sensory details. Sensory details are descriptions that appeal to our sense of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Your descriptions should try to focus on the five senses because we all rely on these senses to experience the world. The use of sensory details, then, provides you the greatest possibility of relating to your audience and thus engaging them in your writing, making descriptive writing important not only during your education but also during everyday situations.


Avoid empty descriptors if possible. Empty descriptors are adjectives that can mean different things to different people. Good, beautiful, terrific, and nice are examples. The use of such words in descriptions can lead to misreads and confusion. A good day, for instance, can mean far different things depending on one’s age, personality, or tastes.

Writing at Work

Whether you are presenting a new product or service to a client, training new employees, or brainstorming ideas with colleagues, the use of clear, evocative detail is crucial. Make an effort to use details that express your thoughts in a way that will register with others. Sharp, concise details are always impressive.

Exercise 1

On a separate sheet of paper, brainstorm descriptions for the following five items. Use at least three of the five senses for each description.

1. Night

2. Beach

3. City

4. Dinner

5. Stranger


The Structure of a Description Paragraph

Description paragraphs typically describe a person, a place, or an object using sensory details.  The topic sentence should convey the writer’s overall impression of the person, place, or object described in the body paragraphs. The organization of the paragraph may best follow spatial order, an arrangement of ideas according to physical characteristics or appearance. Depending on what the writer describes, the organization could move from top to bottom, left to right, near to far, warm to cold, frightening to inviting, and so on. For example, if the subject were a client’s kitchen in the midst of renovation, you might start at one side of the room and move slowly across to the other end, describing appliances, cabinetry, and so on. Or you might choose to start with older remnants of the kitchen and progress to the new installations. Maybe start with the floor and move up toward the ceiling.

Writing a Description Paragraph

Choosing a subject is the first step in writing a description paragraph. Once you have chosen the person, place, or object you want to describe, your challenge is to write an effective topic sentence to guide your paragraph. The remainder of your paragraph describes your subject in a way that best expresses your topic sentence. Remember, you should have a strong sense of how you will organize your paragraph. Choose a strategy and stick to it. Every part of your paragraph should use vivid sensory details. The more you can appeal to your readers’ senses, the more they will be engaged in your paragraph.

Exercise 2

On a separate sheet of paper, choose an organizing strategy and then execute it in a short paragraph for three of the following six items:

1. Train station

2. Your office

3. Your car

4. A coffee shop

5. Lobby of a movie theater

6. Mystery Option*

*Choose an object to describe but do not indicate it. Describe it, but preserve the mystery.